It was Christmas Eve. 2018. 3 weeks ago. I had the idea to give some huge tips to folks that had to work on Christmas—credit to Jon Acuff for the idea. So, I needed to get some cash. My dad and I were running a couple errands and stopped at the bank. I went inside to get some “big bills” to give away.
When I came back to the car there was an African American man with bandages on his hand and a big tumor-looking growth on the back of his neck standing at my dad’s driver window. He was holding a big manila envelope in one hand and some papers in the other.
I hopped in the car and my dad turns to me and quietly asked “Ok to drive him to church?” I said “Sure!” and my dad said to the man: “OK, hop on in.” I asked the man his name and it was Gregory. He said he had been to one church near the bank that morning and it had been closed. Now he was heading to another church. Someone had suggested he try to get $40 for groceries at that church. On Christmas Eve. It was a long shot.
I felt frustrated. My dad and I had stuff to do. We had a schedule to keep. We had preparations to make. I had Christmas movies to watch all by myself back at home.
I HAD JUST GOTTEN MONEY OUT OF THE BANK TO GIVE TO PEOPLE AND WAS FRUSTRATED AT GREGORY FOR TILTING MY PLANS!!! What is wrong with me?!? This is the first demonstration of being DUMB.
So we started driving up York Rd. in Towson, MD towards a church about 15 minutes away. I asked Gregory a little about his story and learned that he was married with 2 daughters – ages 14 and 17. He also shared about some of his medical challenges with the tumor.
On the way, my dad mouths to me “We should give him the money, right?” Again, let me remind you, I HAD MONEY IN MY POCKET WHICH I HAD JUST WITHDRAWN FOR THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF HELPING PEOPLE ON CHRISTMAS. Now there was a kind, genuine, earnest man who seemed to be in need and I still wasn’t seeing God’s providence.
My initial thought was still that the “church” should help him. But it wasn’t going to be open. I don’t know of many churches that are staffed on Christmas Eve and giving away cash money. What is The Church? We are The Church. Gregory was trying to get to a building for help when my dad and I were actually the “church” that was supposed to help. Not a building. But people.
Finally I came to my senses. I shared with Gregory why I had been to the bank and why I thought we had all bumped into each other. And that maybe I could provide money to help him get the last of his groceries for Christmas. He started crying. He blurted out “Heaven open and Jesus come down!” We all 3 laughed. I should have given him more than I did.
My dad was looking with clear and generous eyes the entire time. He wanted to go the extra mile and drive Gregory back to his house in Baltimore city. I had us drop him off at the light rail near our house. Again, what’s wrong with me? This is the second demonstration of being DUMBER. Thus, dumb and dumber on Christmas Eve 2018.
I shared this story with a friend and he said: “Isn’t it wild how much patience God has with us?” God even has grace when I am that dense and thick-headed. He is that good.
I hope you were thinking a little more clearly than me this past Christmas Eve. Tim Keller says:
The world is God’s, and if He has given you more of it to steward than someone else, that does not mean it belongs wholly to you. Like any steward, you must use the true owner’s wealth as He wishes it to be used…Basil the Great says:
‘The bread which you keep belongs to the hungry;
the coats in your closet, to the naked;
your extra shoes…to the shoeless;
the gold you have hidden…to the needy.”
My hope for 2019 is that it will be a year of unfettered generosity for you and me. Generosity with our stuff, talents, gifts, time, and more. And that we will grow to be a little more like Jesus than we were in 2018. He’s still working on me. With incredible patience and incredible grace. I’ve come a long way but have a long way to go. Blessings on your 2019!